when you realize MDs are more superior than MP3 players...
Written: Nov 14, 2002
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
I was considering buying an MP3 player a year ago, caught by the advertising hype that 64mb or 128mb of memory is enough to put all my MP3 collection into one mini piece of audio circuitry. When my friend bought a Sony MDLP player (a MZ-G750 actually)I was amazed by the sound quality the player had, which was superior to my Sony D-EJ725 (you can find my own review of this CD Walkman at epinions.com). The digital superior sound, and the fact that you can put up to 72 or so tracks on MDLP4 on one single, compact MD Disc that is smaller than a floppy disc, convinced me that an MD recorder would replace my CD Walkman and my CD burner which I use to create complation CDs.
I bought the Sony MZ-S1 S2 Sports MD (which, by the way, is Sony's first Sports model MD specifically designed for sport and outdoor use) NetMD player to meet the needs of the following:
- During the summer, I bike to school, and I need a very good anti-shock protection; my D-EJ725 had G-Protection, which was Sony's anti-shock system, which proved very superior for use in CD Walkmans. For MDs, the S1 has G-Protection, and it may prove far more superior than any other protable audio device;
- I run on a treadmill, and I don't want to lose concentration while running, so I require a player that has good ergonomics and easy to use controls;
- The splash resistance of the S1 made it possible for me to listen while not worrying about taking the unit out when it rains, as well as having my hands wet and pressing most of the buttons of the unit;
- I needed a very rugged portable audio device; my CD Walkman has gone through 3 drops on the floor, and 2 incidents where I fell on my bike; it has continued to function but exhibits facial scratches due to its use on my pant pocket. The S1 may be rugged enough to withstand falls and anything else that may render an MP3 player useless;
- I need the longevity of batteries; the S1 uses one AA battery, and it claims to have 40/49/54 hr playback and 9/13/16 hr record on SP, LP2, and LP4, respectively;
- I need the versatility of an MP3 player where you can hook up the device to the computer, and easily transfer files into the player without a hassle;
- I need to put as much music as I can into one MD disc; since MD discs are way cheaper than Flash memory cards ($2 per MD disc compared to $100 per 128mb Flash memory card, and up to 72 or more songs on MDLP4 mode compared to 42 songs with 128kbps MP3 bit rate on a flash memory card) they are inferior due to the fact that they can put more songs into one MD than one flash memory card; and
- I need the Sony guarantee and reliability, as well as the great sound they have engineered out of their experiences with Tape, CD, and MD Walkmans, that I have relied on since the purchase of my CD Walkman.
The MZ-S1 has met all my requirements so far. Sony designers must have put ergonomics as a priority, where the unit itself, with or without a hand strap, is easily held by one hand, with the thumb controlling the playback controls. The thumb-stick on the top of the unit is convenient yet sometimes cumbersome, for you have to put some pressure on the thumb-stick to play, fast-forward, rewind, or adjust the volume. Other than that, the S1 is perfect for running or biking. The lack of remote control is a compromise, but a good one, for one does not need the remote while running; other Sony MD recorders and players have a remote for convenience, but the reason I purchased a CD Walkman with a remote was that it was convenient for me to function the playback options without having to take the main unit out from my pocket. With the S1, I can simply hold it with my hand, sicne its so small it fits inside the palm of my hand, and the thumb-stick control is something I've grown fond of.
The G-Protection system was excellent, I couldnt believe how Sony would engineer such an anti-shock protection for any portable audio device. I ran with it, it went through a lot of vibration and jostling, and it wouldnt skip whatsoever. Ive read that MDs were engineered to read ahead of the data so that the data would be processed on the memory buffer, instead of being read directly from the disc as CDs are read. This provided an advantage where data is being stored from memory, and with G-Protection, this advantage was taken one step further.
Although the S1 was bigger and fatter than normal MD and MP3 players (let alone Sonys MZ-N10 is one of the thinnest recorders out there) its features as a rugged, splash-resistant portable audio device is very useful and meets my overall needs. MP3 players are more vulnerable to being dropped or exposed to water (with the exception of such players for athletes such as the Nike PSA MP3 player), and the circuitry can be broken as soon as it falls off your hands and onto the concrete. The S1 has a buckle that secures the lid, which opens up to access your MD disc, as well as keeping the battery compartment door secured, and keeping everything airtight and watertight. This buckle not only gives a good ergonomic grip on the MD player, but keeps your MD secure and rugged. My S1 almost fell on the floor, hitting the wall and opening up its buckle, but it has done its job. As well, its reflective paint coating makes it easy to see for other people that you have an MD on your hand, or if you have dropped it, it will be reflective enough to be found.
I do not know if MP3 players can play on one AA battery and have playback times of over 40 hours; the S1 has such ability. It is not only cost-effective, but it saves batteyr time depending on playback quality. (Playback time varies with SP, MDLP2, or MDLP4 modes)
I mentioned that you can put more songs on the MD disc than an average 128mb Flash memory card. This is true. Through Sonys new audio technology called MDLP and ATRAC3 (no pun intended to MP3), the standard ATRAC (which stands for Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding) used in SP mode is expanded into ATRAC3 with more data compression so that more songs can be fit into an MD disc. Unless youre an audiophile like me, you will benefit from the fact that you can put so many songs on an MD disc that wasnt possible in the past. ATRAC3 on LP2 mode sounds as close as CD quality sound, and I recommend you use this mode, for you can put 2 CDs (160 minutes of music using 80min MDs) or 35 MP3, WMA, or other soundtracks on one MD disc. For LP4 mdoe, you can put 4 CDs (320 minutes using 80min MDs) or 72 or more tracks. if you compare that to a 128mb MP3 player, you will only be able to put 42 songs on near-CD quality 128kbps mode. Thats not enough for the most of us. But if youre out there running a marathon and 4 songs seems to be enough for you, then consider an MD with its inexpensive medium. Even if you prefer SP mode, which has a maximum capacity of 75 mins (or 80 when using 80 minute MDs), you will enjoy great superior digital sound that matches, or surpasses CD and tape cassettes. I recommend when recording without a PC and recording from other sources such as CD players, to record using optical in on the S1 to record digitally and enjoy great digital sound with rich bass and tones.
The OpenMG software bundled with every NetMD player is very cumbersome, and perhaps spoils the true benefits of this portable audio device. Since Sony has made it an effort to reduce music piracy while cashing in on the MP3 craze, NetMD was developed over the existing MiniDisc format to make it convenient for anyone to put more songs on an MD disc and use it on the go, wherever they go. The OpenMG software uses copyright restrictions to ease up on piracy while letting you listen to your MP3 collection on your MD. However, the program is cumbersome, crashes frequently, and wastes 30% of your hard drive space. Come on Sony! its not like were using MDs to pirate music! There is an alternative to using OpenMG, using Simple Burner. Many MiniDisc enthusiast sites will show you how. Other than this, the restrictions are very limited and oppressive; for instance, if you want to delete a track in your MD, you have to check in the track using OMG and delete it from there. You cannot delete it from the unit, as previous SP mode MDs are able to, because the tracks are protected. As well, you can only check out, or upload the music files, onto your MD, for three times. After three times, you are not allowed to check out your files to your MD. What a bastardized software Sony has made
Other than its disadvantages, the Sony MZ-S1 delivers what any music loving youth and athlete requires on their every day lives: an MD player/recorder designed for great music, and the ruggedness of anyone that might use it for biking, running, or whatever. I dont recommend it for swimming however. The main bonus on the S1 is its backlit LCD, where it is the second only Sony MD portable that has a backlit display (Sonys first MD player, the MZ-1 has a backlit; the other players do not have a backlit but in the remote) making it easier for people to function the player in the dark.
And with the Sony reliability and quality you would expect, the S1 is superior from those MP3 players made by unknown companies; the S1 sounds superior because of the experiences and engineering innovations Sony has made on their products. From technologies such as Digital Mega Bass to ATRAC, you can benefit from the S1 if you're a hardcore athlete, an avid listener and audiophile, or a techie who likes to keep up with technology. The S1 is a true value and versatile music machine.
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